By Cody Beers, Cowboy State Daily
Saturday marks the start of the third year of beer and wine sales at UW football and basketball games. And if Saturday’s attendance at Wyoming-Missouri football opener nears a predicted sellout, it could be a big day for beer and wine sales inside War Memorial Stadium.
Instituted to create a new revenue source for UW Athletics and a way to enhance the fan experience, beer and wine sales grossed $505,000 in 2017 and $460,000 in 2018. The 2018 sales numbers dropped largely due to fewer fans attending Cowboy football games – 73,076 fans attended football games in 2018, compared to 97,300 in 2017.
Revenue is split between UW Athletics (55 percent) and local pouring rights vendor Roxie’s on Grand (45 percent). UW Athletics transfers the first $30,000 from beer and wine sales each year to the Office of Student Affairs on the UW campus, according to Billy Sparks, UW Senior Associate Athletic Director-Business Operations.
Sparks said Roxie’s on Grand in 2017 was selected as UW’s pouring rights vendor for three years, with an option for two more years.
“As the pouring rights vendor, their responsibilities are to provide manpower and enough beer-wine product to sufficiently serve fans at our football and basketball games,” Sparks said.
Roxie’s responsibilities include adhering to and supporting UW’s rules and regulations regarding ID checks and service limits — serving only 2 beers or glasses of wine per person, with a maximum of 4 total beers per person per game.
While the national average of fans buying beer and wine at sporting events is about 50 percent, Sparks said the figure is lower at UW football and basketball games.
“Anecdotally, stories float around about how much Wyoming fans drink at bowl games and conference basketball tournaments, but the actual numbers at home games have shown about 30 percent to 35 percent are actually buying beer and wine,” Sparks said. “On average, sales numbers show Wyoming fans are drinking two to two and one-half beers per game.”
Sparks said beer and wine sales at UW football and basketball games are adding to the fans’ experience.
“The game atmosphere and entertainment aspect for fans has been enhanced,” he added. “In a time where attendance numbers are lower (around the country), every effort has to be made to give fans reasons to physically attend the games versus staying home and watching games on television or watching portions of games on smartphones, tablets, etc.”
Sparks said beer and wine consumers will see changes beginning Saturday.
“Mostly aluminum bottles will be sold, instead of draft beers,” he said. “We believe this will speed up the lines, eliminate partially used kegs, make it easier on the hawkers and should speed up their transactions, allow flexibility to open some express sales locations for larger crowds, and keep the beer colder for a longer period of time.”
Roxie’s staff will also be more proactive this year in checking IDs and distributing wrist bands outside the stadium prior to games.
Finally a product change for this fall includes increased availability of Budweiser products (Budweiser, Bud Light, Kona, Becks IPA, etc.)
“Roxie’s has also increased staffing for this upcoming year,” Sparks said. “Last year at the Washington State game, Roxie’s staff numbered about 90. This year, the plan for the Missouri game is to have about 150 staff members.”
Law enforcement presence remains strong, vigilant at UW games
UW Police Department Chief Mike Samp is a 22-year UW police veteran (the last eight years as chief). Samp and his officers have seen a bit of everything in his time at UW, but the chief is encouraged by trends in drinking by Wyoming fans.
“Generally, we are seeing fewer attempts by people trying to sneak beer and hard alcohol into the (War Memorial) stadium,” he said. “We are still seeing some underage drinking attempts inside the stadium, but most underage drinkers are consuming outside the stadium and then trying to enter the stadium.”
UW’s arrest and ticket records support this notion, “largely because we aren’t writing large numbers of open container tickets.
“All in all, selling beer at our events has gone rather well,” he said.
One thing that remains consistent, Samp said, is the fact that when the Cowboys are winning, fewer problems are seen.
“We see a lot of correlation between winning and losing,” he said. “As long as UW is winning, things tend to go well. So ultimately, it’s a ‘Go Pokes’ mentality.”
Samp remains optimistic about beer sales and football inside War Memorial Stadium, much like UW fans, boosters, coaches and players.
“By in large, given the population of folks who are attending our games, beer sales themselves haven’t created any larger issue,” Samp said. “We are continuing to monitor overconsumption. We don’t want people drinking and driving when they are leaving the stadium.
“We often see medical issues related to alcohol where we have games with rather high temperatures,” he continued. “Combine that with folks tailgating starting at noon or earlier, the longer time for people to consume alcohol, and the evening start, it’s obvious that actual consuming inside the stadium won’t be much of an issue this week.”
With Saturday’s 5:30 p.m. kickoff, longer-than-normal pregame tailgating is expected. This may lead to more alcohol-related medical issues than during normal midday kickoff time on Saturday.
Saturday’s forecast also calls for a high of 83 degrees in Laramie, and 80 degrees is forecast at kickoff.
Samp credits a team-oriented approach to successful law enforcement on game days, such as Saturday when highly-touted Missouri and its energetic fans of the Southeastern Conference come to Laramie.
“We’ve got a minimum staffing of 42 officers for any game, and that includes officers from UW, Wyoming Highway Patrol, Albany County Sheriff’s Department and the City of Laramie,” Samp said.
Inside War Memorial Stadium, law enforcement presence varies according to attendance, Samp added.
“We are hoping to have 60 officers for Saturday’s game, and those numbers will be augmented by contract security people on site.”